The winefully Magazine
Physiognomy of a classic: the Bordeaux blend
When we talk about classics, the reference is often to a traditional style, belonging to the past and solid enough to reach us. Another nuance of meaning draws attention to the object’s ability to establish itself as a model and reference point of an evolutionary path. Louis Armstrong is a classic because he sets a cornerstone in the history of jazz, Humprey Bogart is one of the faces that outlines a certain cinematic classicism as well as “I Promessi Sposi” represent a classic reference when it comes to Italian literature.
In the world of wine, the concept of classic is well represented by the Bordeaux blend, an approach originating from the Bordeaux area that involves the assembly of different varieties, first of all Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The combination of the two vines was born for reasons linked to the rural context. Cabernet and Merlot mature in different periods. Being able to harvest and vinify the grapes in two separate moments, to move on to assembly at a later stage, has historically represented a significant advantage. Fortunately, nature always takes everything into account and the union between the two vines is also welcome from an organoleptic point of view. The velvety tannins of Merlot, together with a pulpy and elegant fruit, well meets the sustained structure of the Cabernet, its green notes and more marked tannins. Alongside the two main grape varieties, the blend can accommodate other varieties including Cabernet Franc, with its vegetal and smoky nuances, and Petit Verdot, which gives notes of fruit and spices.
Just like the classics mentioned above, the Bordeaux blend also defines a point of reference in the great range of oenological approaches. One of the reasons lies in the main characteristics of this style, balance and harmony, fundamental elements of high quality wines. It is interesting to think how much the discussion also applies, and perhaps above all, to wines that contrast with the velvety elegance of the historic approach. If it is true that today a certain trend calls for lashing acidity and overexposed hardness, the innovative power of these choices lies precisely in the distance from a certain idea of classicism, which is therefore confirmed as an essential reference. Precisely as a classic Bordeaux blend, over the years, this has also been chosen in various areas of Italy, among which Tuscany stands out. We speak of Chianti, Maremma but above all of Bolgheri, land of the famous Supertuscans. Other regions where we find this style are Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige.
It is in Trentino that an absolute icon is born and it has been able to establish among the wines that symbolize classicism not only in Italy, but throughout the world, receiving the most important international awards. We are talking about San Leonardo, the symbolic wine of the homonymous estate of which the Guerrieri Gonzaga family has been the guardian for over three centuries. The Marquis Carlo Guerrieri Gonzaga has always had a great passion for Bordeaux wines. Precisely on the property of San Guido – where one of the most famous Bordeaux blends in the world, Sassicaia is born – the Marquis shared part of his path with Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, who introduced him to the universe of the Bordeaux blend. Today Carlo leads Tenuta San Leonardo together with the Marquis Anselmo Guerrieri Gonzaga, his son, currently director of the company and at the forefront of its leadership. Tenuta San Leonardo is located in Vallagarina, the southern part of Trentino. The area is lapped by the Ora del Garda, a hot wind that blows during the day, removing moisture from the vines and disappearing at night, favoring that temperature range that is so important in the vineyard. A rainy valley, with rainfall above the Italian average, well managed thanking to the draining capacity of the calcareous soil. Here the legendary San Leonardo is born, a classic Bordeaux blend that includes 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Carmenere and 10% Merlot. No stainless steel is used rather concrete only, with a passage in wood that varies from 18 to 26 months.
An aristocratic wine of unrivaled finesse, in the 2015 version it expresses a breadth of aromas that over the years will be able to extend to an even greater richness. San Leonardo is a wine of great longevity, capable of evolving for over thirty years with continuous enrichment. The nose is a whirlwind of floral scents, balsamic notes, small fruits, wrapped in a sumptuous elegance that is difficult to crystallize in a word. On the palate, two fundamental guidelines stand opposite each other in the debate that establishes the greatness of this wine: the strength of a tannin in its full vigor and the velvet of the best Bordeaux blend. The sensations follow each other, passing from cardamom to black pepper, from tobacco to sandalwood, giving a glimpse of how they will be tomorrow, transfigured by extraordinary tertiary flavors. How nice today it is to discover new styles and explore new approaches with the awareness that, whenever we wish, we can return to take refuge among the expressive peaks of our most solid certainties. Over the years these have become an integral part of classic winemaking, and also a little part of us.
With 15 years spent in Communication, today Graziano Nani is the Creative Director of Doing. Sommelier from AIS of Italy, he writes for Intravino and Vertigo Magazine, part of Passione Gourmet network. On Instagram he’s #HellOfaWine, focused on monological excellences. His wine blog is gutin.it, mixing history and illustrations. He loves food as well, writing about preferred chefs and wines through dedicated tastings.